As I the Shards Examine by Chris Wind


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CHARACTERS:

Restroom attendant - around 50

Ophelia - mid 20s; she questions the advice of her brother Laertes and
her father Polonius, accusing them both of projection, then extends
her criticism to Hamlet, examining both his words and actions, in the
end revealing that she did not kill herself, the weight of her dress
dragged her down.

Lady MacBeth - a 'bag lady'; she reveals that she also did not kill
herself, but was murdered.

Regan anywoman; she presents a fresh look at King Lear, showing
how the pieces fit a story of sexual abuse.

Portia - executive-typed; she is enraged that she is not allowed to
use her fine mind to choose her own husband and that she must disguise
herself as a man in order to practice law.

Desdemona anywoman; she examines the charge of infidelity brought
against her and finds it sorely wanting.

Kate - anywoman, battered; she examines what it is to be called a
'shrew' and then recounts the events of the play, which show with
frightening plausibility that she was a victim of so-called
'domestic assault'.

Isabella - university student; she considers the choice before her and
has no trouble agreeing to sex for a life.

Juliet - high school student, cool, punky; she pooh-poohs love at
first sight she just wants to have sex.

Marina - around 13; she reveals the truth of her life as a child
prostitute.

Miranda - the restroom cleaning lady; she explores why mothers are so
absent in Shakespeare's world.

Paramedics

Police officer


SCENE: A WOMEN'S RESTROOM

ATTENDANT is seated off to the side just inside the entrance, with a
pile of neatly folded towels, soaps, etc. She wears a uniform. She
speaks speaks her lines as asides, directly to the audience.

OPHELIA enters restroom, takes a towel or soap as an afterthought,
seems unaware of the customary tip, then continues into the restroom
proper.

ATTENDANT
That's Ophelia Hamlet's girlfriend? The one who went mad and
drowned herself? Well, at least according to Shakespeare.

OPHELIA
(mumbling the prologue as she writes it on the wall)

O what a noble mind is here at last
uncover'd!
The glass of fashion, the mould of
form
Is quite dash'd against the stone;
The shattered pieces lie at my
feet.
My thoughts, my feelings,
Once fixed, encased in crystal,
Breathe and blow in the quick'ning
wind
Like petals. Once pale, now
pulsing,
Rich, and rainbowed, come!
I beseech thee, attend and heed
As I the shards examine.

(has three letters in her hands, taken out of her purse; chooses
one)

Laertes, brother, you insult to
suggest
Hamlet's love impermanent
For his choice must be queen
As well as wife: Am I not worthy?
Further, you warn caution,
Lest I my 'chaste treasure open':
I am mistress of my self!
And since more than a man, I pay the
cost,
Then more, not less, do I take such
care.
Lastly, you say 'safety lies in
fear':
I have grown weary of being afraid,
Of being made to feel afraid; I
yearn
To meet the day and greet the night
Unafraid as men are wont to do.
And I crave to love with opening
arms
So tell me not to hide my heart
Lest my desire lead him to abandon
Restraint, and madly ravish
would it be so?
(Or do you extend to all of your
kind
Knowledge of your self alone?)

(ink has gotten on her hands from the graffiti or the letters; she
rinses and wipes her hands on the linen roll-around; chooses another
letter)

Father, your words are as out of
tune.
You say I do not understand myself
And see me as still an infant babe,
For by foil you would then appear
the more mature:
Is contrast your only proof of
wisdom and worth?
(Alas, all cowards and chameleons
create their colour
From what is without, not what is
within.)
And you instruct me to 'set my
entreatments at a higher rate'
As if I am some prize! Do you think
me a whore,
That my presence must be paid for?
Then you claim he may walk with a
larger tether
(As if we were but animals!): Why
do you grant him
More freedom than I?
Why does Laertes go to Paris (and
not I)
When you know his simple mind so
well
You sent another to be guardian?
I pray thee, Father, reconsider

Is it because your own judgement is
faulty
That you do not trust mine?
Hamlet is a fine man, soldier,
scholar, courtier,
A prince! And I judge him to be
sincere.
Is that not enough?
No, indeed, that is nothing, for
lastly
You tell me to forsake him
forever!
For no other reason than your own
mistrust
Of him, of me, that I'll become with
child
(And thereby make you the greater
fool
You think not what it would make of me.)

To you both, I never sought your advice
Why do you 'press it upon me so?
Perhaps you feel your sex gives the right
No. I'll give the reason: Projection is all.

(she looks in the mirror and considers herself often throughout)

Brother, your passions run without rule
So you tell your sister to reign hers.
And Father, you are a fool and master both,
Of fine words and deception's smile
So you counsel your daughter to believe none.

(she chooses a third letter)

And now, Hamlet, no longer my lord
I have words that I have longed to deliver.

Ophelia exits

ATTENDANT
Dogrose. That's just the same as a common wildrose symbol of
pleasure mixed with pain. Also believed to cure the bit of mad dogs.

LADY MACBETH enters wheeling her shopping cart. She takes many towels
and soaps, shoving them into her cart she is very much a
streetdweller, a 'bag lady'.

ATTENDANT
Surely you recognize Lady MacBeth.

LADY MACBETH
(she only incidentally faces the mirror throughout her 'toilette';
she begins by vigorously washing her hands, then her arms)

I didn't kill myself.

(she takes off her shirt, washes her armpits, and chest sort of,
and the shirt)

I outperformed them in their own play.

(she rummage sin her stuff for another shirt, puts it on, tucks the
wet one somewhere)

So they removed me (too)
To the realm of insanity
And then

(washes face and hands again)

they killed me.

(dries her hands on the linen roll-around, tucks the towels into her
cart, steals a roll of toilet paper from one of the stalls, then
exits)

REGAN enters the restroom very quickly, walking right by the
attendant. She is tense and nervous, and has come in to smoke a
cigarette and calm herself.

ATTENDANT
You probably know her father King Lear? That one's Regan, the
middle daughter.

REGAN
(she has trouble lighting her cigarette but finally succeeds)

What you have to wonder is
Why our father favoured Cordelia.
He was a man who needed to be worshipped
But, as the story goes,
Cordelia was not one to flatter
And praise. So why then?
It is simple she's young.
(That is to say, younger.)
And like most men, our father prefers
His women to be childish.
(Or shall I say, children.)

At first he favoured Goneril;

[end of extract]




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